WILL Ireland cope with a host of injuries on Sunday? Russ Petty (@rpetty80) previews the match for us.
Ireland v Argentina | Sunday 13:00 | ITV1
How would Ireland cope with key players missing? That was one of the questions posed by pundits when their chances were assessed pre-tournament. They finished the win over France last weekend without Johnny Sexton, Paul O’Connell and Peter O’Mahony on the pitch. If they are to progress to a first semi-final they will have to win again without those injured players and also the banned Seán O'Brien.
Ireland won the 2014 and 2015 Six Nations championships under Joe Schmidt and in both cases an important factor was their low error count. Last year they averaged just seven penalties a match and 14 turnovers while this year it was nine penalties and 10 turnovers.
They’ve scored the first try in 19 of 26 games since the former Leinster boss took over and have led opponents for an average of 52 minutes per game, with over 60 minutes in 16 matches. The high number of kicks from hands is often criticised and in this World Cup they do average 40 a game. However they also average 148 runs and 201 passes too.
After the pool stage, Argentina topped the charts for many of the attacking stats such as point scored, metres carried, clean breaks, defenders beaten, offloads etc. Regular games against Rugby Championship opponents has led to a vast improvement in their attacking attitude. Los Pumas now show plenty of ambition but haven’t lost that foundation of a solid scrum or brutal approach to the breakdown.
However Argentina are also missing plenty of tackles. Ireland made 458 in the pool stage, missing 42 while Daniel Hourcade’s team made 436, missing 105.
These teams did meet twice last year with both games following similar scoring patterns. The halftime scores were 11-10 and 9-10 and then Ireland won the second half both times, by 18-7 and 14-7. In the 23 games since the close New Zealand defeat in 2013, only Wales have outscored Ireland in the second half. In contrast, Argentina have lost the second half in their previous six games against Tier 1 sides by an average of nine points.
There will be plenty of Irish support in the Millennium Stadium and at full strength would have been keen on backing Schmidt’s side to edge out this contest after the break in front of their vociferous fans, as they did against France. However given the disruption to their first choice line-up it is tough to ignore the +4 available for Los Pumas.
Ireland v Argentina – Argentina + 4 (Evens Stan James)
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